tv U.S. Senate Approves 1.1 Trillion Government Spending Bill 79-18 CSPAN May 4, 2017 1:29pm-3:30pm EDT
grateful. i urge senators to support the bill. mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i note that the chairman and i are well aware of how well it does when we can each take one of these bills. that's what we should do. you know, i mentioned this when the vermonters were here last weekend, when marcel and i hosted them. so many had driven through the night to join the hundreds of thousands of people in the nation's capital for the climate march. and many of them asked, why can't we do it the way we used to? i told them we were ready to go to all the bills in november.
and i'm sorry that leadership said no. but things now we have done a lot in here. and those of us on appropriations committee have ready this bill. and we've been -- read most of it since last november. the e.p.a. in it provides funding to improve the ecological violent crimecy of our great state, the jewel of new england. it also includes funding for similar partnerships all over the country. i'm also pleased to report what's not in this bill. in a bipartisan way, we got rid of more than 160 poison pill riders, riders that would have undermined the health insurance of millions of americans by attacking protections they have under the affordable care act. riders that would have slapped restrictions on women's access to health care, especially rural
areas. riders that would have rolled back consumer financial protection of dodd-frank regulations and weaken environmental protections. let's have votes up or down on those issues any time you want, but not in a must-pass budget bill. not a single cent of the bill go toward building president trump's misguided wall on the southern border. when that issue came up in our debate, i said well, let's have a vote up or down, house and the senate, on the wall. all democrats, all republicans voted for it. nobody wants such a vote because not enough people support it. but the american people should not, and they will not be forced to pay tens of billions of dollars for a bumper sticker solution to an incredibly complex problem, a wall that the president promised that mexican,
not american taxpayers would pay for, even though all american taxpayers know that americans, not mexicans, will pay for it. his own department estimates the cost to the u.s. taxpayers to be $22 billion. some said during the debate show me a 30-foot wall, i will show you a 31-foot ladder. i can also show you pictures of the small prop planes and boats and tunnels. a wall is nothing more than an illusion. it's a false promise of security. instead of debating this boondoggle, which democrats as well as many republicans and independents oppose, let's consider real solutions of comprehensive immigration reform. in 2013, the united states senate passed with republicans and democrats working together, comprehensive immigration reform. that's resume that debate, not
throw money at this expensive illusion when we're cutting vital medical research, the national institutes of health and others to pay for it. you know, there is a lot of antiscience proposals, impulses in this, in the proposal that came from the administration, and i'm proud that both republicans and democrats rejected them. so i support the bill before us. i am proud to join chairman cochran. it's not a perfect bill, but no products we all come together on are perfect, but on balance it's a good deal for the american people. it reflects the values of both republicans and democrats. in the bipartisan work that brought us to this point, it lays the groundwork for our negotiations on the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill. so i want to extend again my thanks to chairman cochran and to the subcommittee chairman and
ranking members. it takes a tremendous amount of work to draft each of the underlying bills contained in this consolidated appropriations bill. while we were negotiating, i remember being on the phone at 10:00, 11:00 at night. i went to bed and the staff would keep on working until 2:0. so i thank the staff of the appropriations committee, including the subcommittee clerks on both sides of the aisle who have been here day in and day out for many weeks. i certainly thank on my staff charles, chuck, kiefert, jana paterney, gene quaid as well as assistants from senator schumer and his staff, including mike lynch. i want to thank and recognize bruce evans and fitz elder from chairman cochran's staff, the staff director and deputy staff director.
they worked very, very hard. and lastly, on a personal matter, mr. president, i do take a moment, a special recognition for my staff director on appropriations, charles keifer. chuck is well known to the senate. he's a familiar figure here in this chamber. he served on the appropriations committee for many years, under numerous chairmen and vice chairmen. i was grateful that he was willing to take on and continue there when i took over as vice chairman. a lot of people don't know he has been working around the clock on this. in march, he lost his father jerry. just a few weeks ago, he lost his mother fran. if you know even a little bit about his parents, there is no doubt where chuck gets his dedication to public service. his father jerry served as the executive director of the national cultural center at the
kennedy center. he held positions in the truman and eisenhower and nixon and ford and carter administrations. chuck's mother fran was a long-time member of the league of women voters. she dedicated time to numerous civic institutions throughout her lifetime. at 93 and 89 respectively, jerry and fran lived a long and full life, including a marriage of 68 years. i know their family and friends feel that loss, and my and marcelle's thoughts are with chuck and his wife peg and their family. i thank him -- i thank him for his tireless dedication to this institution, even touring -- during a time of great personal sorrow, but i like to think, mr. president, that his parents are looking down from their
place of eternal reward with a great deal of pride in their son. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i'm going to be voting no on this 1,700-page bill. i'm not blind to some of the good parts of the bill. it includes last year's intelligence authorization act which includes some ports of the bill that i wrote that would counteract russian activities in the united states and europe, provisions that were blocked by the obama administration since they refused to ever get tough on russia. it increases defense spending, although not to an adequate degree given the threats we face. for the first time in recent years, it recognizes that every dollar we spend on defense doesn't have to be matched by another dollar elsewhere in our federal budget. now, there are parts of this bill that got dropped that i would have liked to have seen, for instance, blocking federal funding to government sanctuary cities. you might as well call them
outlaw cities because they refuse to comply with federal immigration law and turn over immigrants facing deportation to federal authorities. but i want to hone in on one particular provision that shows just how bad this process is. in a 1,700-page bill. they don't hide the good things in the bill. they only hide the bad things. so look to teenage 735, section 543. you will find an increase in h-2-b visas of almost 79,000. a 120% increase over the normal annual cap of a so-called seasonal visa program for temporary workers that can take up to nine or ten months. it's not necessary. it has nothing to do with funding the government, nothing. it hasn't been vetted. it hasn't gone through the normal legislative process, which would be the judiciary committee, where the chairman and the senior democrat both have written that they oppose this measure. i don't even know how it got in there. i don't know if it was the chairman, the ranking member. they may not know.
1,700 pages, after all. it takes hours to even figure out what it means, it's so complicated in language. but this is what it does. it takes jobs away from american workers and abuses the immigrants that come into this country. in the past ten years, the department of labor has found 800 employers, 800 who have abused 23,000 guest workers, everything from stealing their wages, demanding bribes for their visas, even sexual abuse. and those are only the ones that have been caught. and that's because, unlike american workers, these immigrant workers cannot leave their job. if they are fired, they go back to their home country where they often have huge families who are depending on them for their remittances. their employers know that, and they take advantage of them. it is a newfangled form of indentured servitude. some people in this institution complain the way arab countries treat guest workers from south
asia and southeast asia. the conditions in which some of these visa workers operate are hardly much better. they live in filth and squalor. they are charged exorbitant fees for their housing and for their food. and the employers largely get away with it because they know that these immigrant workers will not complain, that they will not go to the authorities, they will not report it to the department of labor because if they do, they go back to their home country. and those are just the immigrant workers. what about the american workers? there are a lot of reasons why unscrupulous american employers favor temporary guest workers. they don't have to pay payroll taxes on them, for instance. they don't have to pay unemployment taxes on them. but the real reason is those guest workers have virtually no leverage to demand higher wages. as i said, they can be sent home because they are tied to a single employer. americans have more bargaining
power. if they can get a better wage down the road, then they will go down the road. if they can get better benefits, they can go to a new job, but those guest workers cannot. so the employers who abused the h-1-b program go to the greatest lengths to avoid hiring an american worker. the program says you have to advertise for the job in advance, and they do. hundreds of miles away, in obscure newspapers, that have nothing to do with the employer's local economy. many employers discourage americans from applying in the first place. remember, these are unskilled labor positions, unskilled. this is not a high--- these are not high-tech jobs. unskilled guest workers. they subject american workers to the most extreme, unreasonable, extraneous tests before they hire them, tests that they do not submit those foreign guest workers to because they can pay them lower wages. and when they finally are forced to hire an american worker because they face penalties from
the department of labor if they don't, they try to make the conditions as bad as possible for them so they can fire them and then replace them with a foreigner. a lot of the arguments for this kind of program boils down to this -- no american will do that job. that is a lie. it is a lie. there is no job that americans will not do. there is no industry in america where a majority of workers are not native-born american citizens or first-generation lawful immigrants. not landscapers, not construction workers, not ski instructors, not lifeguards, not resort workers, not crabmen, not a single one. if the wage is decent and the employer obeys the law, americans will do the job. and if it's not, then they should pay higher wages. to say anything else is an insult to the work ethic of the american people who make this country run. and we just had an election in
which the president distinguished himself more on any single issue than immigration. you all realize that, right? you will realize that uncontrolled mass migration is up ending the -- upending the politics and the societies all across europe. you realize that, right? i mean, what is it going to take for the people in washington, d.c., to realize just how out of touch they are when it comes to protecting the jobs and the wages of american workers? mr. president, i will vote no and i will say that today is not the day when washington realizes just how out of touch they are. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: i would ask unanimous consent for three minutes, and it's probably going to be less than that. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. tester: thank you, mr. president. i'd like to thank the members of the body for this. look, this is an omnibus that i'm going to vote for.
there are some things that have been disturbing about it, there is no doubts about that, not to mention the fact that congress took seven months to take care of this plan for the long term, which created uncertainty out there on the ground. seven months that congress sat on their hands that left towns and hospitals and airports and our citizenry in the lurch. but it does do some good things, and i think it does reflect values of rural america, which i think is really important. i think it's a responsible budget for rural americans in states like montana. one of the things i think it does that is entirely appropriate it pushes the education department to consider the upward bound grant applications that were denied because of a ridiculous, and i do mean ridiculous format requirements. this will allow first-generation college kids to be able to go to college. what the department of education did with the upward bound program is the worst of the bureaucracy that government can allow. this bill helps fix that, and gives the department of education a pair of glasses so
they can apply a little common sense to some of the rules. it also does some good things for our national parks. it does some good things for our bases. it does some good things to help our natural resources, but since i am ranking member on the appropriations committee on homeland security, can i tell you that overall it really i think fits the needs of our homeland security, whether it's border security or cybersecurity, and i think it's a responsible bill to help invest in our economy moving forward while keeping this country secure. with that, i would encourage a yes vote on this bill. and i would ask the next time around, which is going to start immediately, we let the committee on appropriations do their work and bring these bills to the floor. i want to thank the chairman and ranking member of the committee. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the motion to
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the body wishing to vote or to change their vote? if not the ayes are 79, the nays are 18. the motion to confer is agreed to. under the previous order the clerk will report the enrollment correction. the clerk: h. con. res. 53, providing for a correction in the enrollment of h.r. 244. the presiding officer: the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i move to proceed to executive session to
consider scott gottlieb to be a member of the toed and drug. -- food and drug. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion to proceed. the ayes appear to have it, the ayes do have it. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: nomination, department of health and human services, scott gottlieb of connecticut to be commissioner of food and drugs. mr. mcconnell: i send a cloture motion to the desk. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22, do hereby bring to a close debate on nomination of scott gottlieb. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that the reading of the names be waived. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous
consent that the mandatory quorum call with respect to the cloture motion be waived. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding rule 22, the cloture vote on the gottlieb nomination occur following the disposition of the wilson nomination on monday, may 8. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. daines: mr. president, tomorrow may 5, anna harris should have been 25 years old, but instead of celebrating a birthday, we'll be celebrating her birthday. she was a 21-year-old member of the noram tribe.
the last time she was seen alive was the fourth of july in 2013. after that, she went missing and five days later her body was found. hannah was found to have been raped and murdered. for too long t -- long the stories of missing an murdered american indian and alaskan native women have gone unheard. according to the center for disease control and prevention, homicide was the third leading cause of death among american indian and alaska native women between the ages of 10 and 24 years, and the fifth leading cause of death for american indian and alaskan native women between 25 and 34 years of age. and according to a study commissioned by the department of justice, american indian
women face murder rates that are more than ten times the national average. let me repeat that. american indian women face murder rates ten times the national average. i can tell you what. if this were the case in any other community outside of native communities, there would be public outcry. but there hasn't been until now. in fact, yesterday the united states senate approved my resolution to designate may 5 hanna harris' birthday as a day of remembrance. it will be a day to join together to commemorate the lives of those we lost tragically like hanna. it's a day to validate the pain tribal communities felt and feel every day. it will mark national day of awareness for native women and
girls who have gone missing or have been murdered. i was joined by 12 of my colleagues in passing this resolution to declare the tragic loss of native women and girls. it's not just an issue. this is an epidemic. and i thank them for their support. tomorrow on hanna's birthday, i will walk with melinda limber hahn harris, hanna's mother, and with tribal leadership as well as members in lame deer, montana who have also lost a mother, a daughter, a sister, or a friend. on may 5 we will remember roy lynn ritzhorse, we'll remember kinsley olson and we'll remember the thousands of other american indian and alaskan native women who have been killed or have disappeared without a trace.
and we'll remember hanna harris. on her birthday tomorrow, as we walk together in lame deer, montana. mr. president, i yield my time. mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. daines: i have eight requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. daines: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. daines: i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
mr. alexander: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. the house of representatives has just -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. alexander: mr. president, i ask consent to vitiate the call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. the house of representatives has
just passed a bill that would make major changes in the affordable care act b. i congratulate the house. if the senate will carefully review the house bill and now we'll go to work on a senate bill. here are my goals for a senate bill. i don't prepend to speak for -- pretend to speak for every member of the senate or even every republican but these are my goals for a bill we will fashion here. number one, rescue the thousands of tennesseans and millions of americans who under the affordable care act will be trapped in obamacare exchanges with few or zero options for health insurance in the year 2018 unless congress acts. number two, my second goal is to lower premium costs. premium costs have increased and in some states are going through
the roof under the affordable care act. number three, to gradually transfer to the states more flexibility in administering the medicaid program, and to do that in such a way as to not pull the rug out from under those who rely on the medicaid program. and number four, to make sure that those who have preexisting health conditions have access to health insurance. this is one thing in the affordable care act that has strong support from just about everybody, including the president, that if you have a preexisting condition, you must have access to health care. and we need to make sure that that is still true in any bill that we create in the senate. there is some urgency here, mr. president, because of what is happening in the individual market. when we say individual market, here's what we're talking about. most americans get their
insurance either from the government or on the job. 25% of americans get their insurance through medicare. we're not talking about medicare today. the bill in the house or the bill we will create in the senate does not affect medicare. about 60% of americans get their insurance on the job. about 20% or so through medicaid. and that leaves about 4% who go into a market to buy it. many of these americans buy their insurance on marketplaces or exchanges created by the affordable care act. we call those the obamacare exchanges. and about 85% of those who buy their insurance on the exchanges have a government subsidy to help them buy the insurance. as every day goes by, we're -- we hear and we're going to continue to hear about insurance companies pulling out of
counties and states. yesterday we heard that the only insurer left in iowa is now likely to leave. that means more than 70,000 people on the exchanges will have no insurance to buy. most of them will have subsidies from the government so it's like thousands of people in iowa who have bus tickets in a town where no buses run. and that's what's happening right now because of the 2010 law which we call the affordable care act. i know this all too well because 34,000 people in the knoxville, tennessee area, my home area, are going to have subsidies in 2010 -- 2018 but no insurance to buy with the subsidies unless congress acts. that's because of the 2010 law that we seek to change. in 2016, last year, 7% of
counties in the united states had just one insurer offering plans on their affordable care act exchanges. this year 2017, that number jumped to 32%, one in three counties in the united states. if you have a subsidy to buy insurance on the obamacare exchange, you have only one insurance company offering you insurance. five entire states have only one insurer offering a.c.a. plans in their entire state this year: alabama, alaska, oklahoma, south carolina, and wyoming. mr. alexander: that's because of the affordable care act law passed in 2010. mr. president, unfortunately we're going to be hearing every day, not just about insurers leaving counties and states but about the ones that remain because they're going to be charging sky high premiums.
premiums went up by as much as 62% this year in tennessee and by 116% in arizona. and as the new rate increases are proposed to the states over the next few weeks and months, our constituents are going to be saying what are you going to do about that? so there is an urgency, but we want to get it right. so again, here are my goals for the senate bill, which we will now write in the next few weeks. number one, reserve could you and reserve could you is not too stong a word -- rescue is not too advantage to word, the millions of americans across this country who are going to have few or zero insurance options in the year 2018 because of collapsing obamacare exchanges unless congress acts. number two, lower premium rates because in many states premiums are going through the roof under
the affordable care act. number three, gradually transfer to states more flexibility in managing the medicaid programs. about 20% of americans get their insurance on medicaid. and do so in such a way that doesn't pull the rug out from under those who are currently served by medicaid. and finally, preexisting conditions -- make sure that americans who have insurance for preexisting conditions continue to have access to it. if you're on medicaid or if you're on medicare or in almost every case if you get insurance on the job, you have insurance for preexisting conditions. under the affordable care act in 2010, there had to be insurance for preexisting conditions. we want to make sure that those americans continue to have
access, if they have a preexisting condition. we'll move ahead with deliberate speed. we're doing that because exchanges are collapsing, people could be without insurance, premiums will go up if we don't act, but we want to get it right. there will be no artificial deadlines. we'll carefully consider the legislation passed by the house. we will work together carefully to write our own bill. we will make sure we know what our bill costs when we vote on it. in fact, by law we have to do that. we will get it right and then we will vote. and hopefully, mr. president, the end result will be significant improvements for most americans, giving them more choices of health insurance at a lower cost. and to do that by gradually transferring more decisions from washington, d.c., to the states and to individuals.
i thank the president. i yield the floor. i notice th -- i notice the abse of a quorum. mr. president, i ask consent to vitiate the quorum because i see the senator from louisiana on the floor. the presiding officer: without objection. requestmr. cassidy: mr. preside? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. cassidy: mr. president, i follow the senator fro's remark. if there's somebody watching on this screen right now, quite likely she is concerned about her health care premiums. on the campaign trail, i just remember this so vividly. on the campaign trail when i was running for senate, i was in jefferson parish, on veterans boulevard and a woman named tiny comes up. i am going it paraphrase what
she said a little bit. she said, my name is tinya and i am angry. my husband and i have no children and i've had a hysterectomy and i'll paying for pediatric dentistry and obstetrical benefits. i am angry. and if there's something right now that the average middle-class voter is saying about her or his insurance premiums is that they are angry. i-that they feel like they're being forced by washington to buy things they do not need and sacrificing other parts of their budget because if they do not, they know the federal government will come after them with a force of law penalizing their family and they do not wish to do that. so, mr. president, what can we do? first, we acknowledge as the house has that obamacare is not working. premiums are going up 20% to 40% per year, 11 states i'm told their individual market is in a death spiral. and i could go through that which we already know.
president trump knew it, as candidate trump, president trump pledged four major. he pledged to eliminate mandates and the senate is committed to work with the house? and to eliminate those mandates. washington, d.c., should not tell you what to do. number two, to care for those with preexisting conditions, as senator alexander says, it is something that touches every family. the president was particularly concerned about those whose preexisting condition was opioid addiction. and we have to recognize that they will not get better unless they receive treatment. and it's better to treat than it is to incarcerate or to bury. and so, mr. president, we must honor the president's pledge there. he also pledged to cover all and to lower premiums. it is this last i wish to focus on now. how do we lower premiums? how do we say to tina, who this was two years ago paying $5 more
a months, that your premium will be lower. there are several ways. let me first focus on lowering the cost of care. right now health care is way too expensive. if you go in for an emergency room visit, you pay-as-you-go $1,500 in -- i should say urgent care visit. you pay-as-you-go $1,500 in one urgent care center and $50 in another. and you as the patient do not know -- you would never pay a car that way. mr. president%, could you imagine walking into a car dealership is picking your car and then saying, bill me six months from now and i will pay whatever you ask? no one would do that. mr. president, we shouldn't ask the average patient to do it. because when we hide those costs from the patient, we do not allow her to be the informed consumer. and lacking information, she
inevitably pays more. so one thing that i have proposed along with senator collins and four other senators -- senators from south carolina, south dakota, georgia, and west virginia -- is price transparency, which is to say that when someone goes in to get their daughter's earache addressed, she knows the price of what it would cost at this urgent care center versus another. a good example of what exactly i'm talking about, mr. president, there was an article in "the los angeles times" a few years ago about the cash price of a c.t. scan in the los angeles basin. it would vary from $250 to $2,500. $250 to $2,500. and the person purchasing the service with cash would never know. i envision a time, mr. president, when someone takes their smartphone and scans the bar code and the bar code says, hmmm ... you can go at
midnight on thursday and have your c.t. scan for $250 or you can go right now and pay $2,500 and you look at quality code and both have equal quality. i can see the mother turning to her daughter and saying, baby, we're staying up thursday night, because that mother knows that she can take care of their family's financial health as well as her daughter's health just by being an informed consumer. so one way we lower premiums, mr. president, is by lowering the cost of health care, and the way we lower that cost of health care is by empowering patients with the knowledge of price. the second way, mr. president, that we can manage to lower the cost of premiums is to take care of those who are sick. the senator from tennessee ended up by speaking about our commitment to care for those with preexisting conditions. of course it is in the interest of the patient that he or she who has cancer sable to get care for their cancer. jimmy kimmel just spoke about
his son being born with a congenital heart condition. he would have quickly died. and mr. kimmel chokes up as he speaks about shouldn't ever family have the reassurance that their family would have their needs addressed. i am struck that mick mulvaney disagreed with mr. kimmel. we all -- this is not a republican issue, not a democratic issue, it is an american issue. but it's also -- it's in society's interest. i can tell you, i am a physician. i worked in a public hospital for the uninsured for 30 years. and i tell folks as long as that emergency room door was open, no matter what time, day, or night, there through that door came folks who had all kinds of health care conditions. and some of them would come every week. some of them would come twice a week. we called them frequent flyers. they may have been addicted or mentally ill, may have had terrible diabetes, which is poorly controlled or bad asthma
and they would come in with an exacerbation and couldn't breathe. now, every time they come in, there is a $2 to $20,000 charge. every time. but if you manage that patient through a primary care office or an attached urgent care have the, what you're charging $2,000 for here you request manage for $150 there. and not only that, mr. president, when you manage it for $150 here, if that person actually works, she's more likely to hold a job, more likely to support her family, less likely to go onto dependence, more likely to pay taxes. society wins and she wins. that should be our goal. so another way to lower premiums is to actively manage the cost of disease. people always say we want
government to run like a business. let me just describe what happens in a large corporation. imagine exxonmobil has a third-party administrator and they look at someone who is a high-cost employee. they actively engage in managing that patient's illness so that, one, they are better but, two, they lower cost. we, as a government, should do that which a responsible employer does as well. and last thing i want to mention is the way to lower premiums is by expanding coverage. when candidate trump said he wanted to lower premiums and preserve coverage, he understood the two are linked. if you have a big risk pool -- and a risk pool are just the folks that are insured. everybody who has insurance that's called the rick pool. if it is big, mr. president, with young folks in their 20's,
other folks in their 30's and 40's, and a few folks like me in their 50's. if someone gets sick, you spread the cost over the many. and particularly if the many include the younger and healthier, there is a subsidy for the older and sicker. go back to exxonmobil. let's imagine they have 50,000 employees. if they have 50,000 employees and ten of them get cancer, have liver transplants, terrible accidents, their premiums don't even blip because you spread the cost of these expensive illnesses over the many. all benefit and cost is held down. so when president trump pledged to preserve coverage, he was recognizing that nexus between having a big risk pool and lowering that premium. mr. president, let me finish by sag this. by saying this.
my commitment to tina and my commitment to the voters of louisiana and the people of the united states is to try and lower premiums. they cannot afford the unaffordable care act. and the way we can do that, that i've outlined today, including empowering patients with the knowledge of price to lower the cost of health care, to manage, to encourage coverage which manages those who are sick so that those who are sick stay well, less like lay to consume expensive emergency room care as an example but also more likely to live full, vibrant lives, and lastly to restore what is called actuarial soundness. the law of big numbers. a risk pool in which one of us gets cancer, that cost is spread over many. mr. president, if we manage to lower premiums, we will fulfill
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. a senator: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. gardner: thank you, mr. president. i come to the floor today to talk about the recent impact of prairie fires in northeastern colorado. a lot of times when you turn on the national news in the spring, summer or fall, you might see fires in
colorado. but most of the time those fires are located in western colorado in the mountains. and we've had some horrible fires in recent years, the past decade has been littered with far too many fires of great consequence to our environment, to our families, homes, and the damage that they have caused. but oftentimes we don't see as much in the news, fires in other parts of the state including the eastern plains of colorado out on the high prairies, the great plains prairies. at the end of marlow began and phillips county saw a blaze that destroyed homes, harming cattle and farm operations and shutting down a key interstate corridor. to put 32,000 acres in perspective, in 2016 the largest fire in colorado was the beavercreak fire burning tens of thousands of acres over the course of three months. it burned 32,000 acres, in 32,000 acres in northeastern colorado in about 24 hours.
38,000 acres three months, 32,000 acres, 24 hours. incredibly dangerous situations in both indications to land, to people, those around. these images of the denver post paint a picture of the frightening situation that the area of the state faced. you can see what happened with the dirt, debris, smoke, weather created by the fire and what happens around it. you can see some of the damage to property here. i'm going to go back to that earlier picture a little bit and talk about some of the other impacts that we saw, because you can see the firemen from eastern colorado working to protect property, to try to stop the fire before it reaches the homestead. and you can see somebody out with a tractor, trying to disk up the ground so they create a fire break. and the people from around eastern colorado, northeastern colorado were getting in their tractors taking their lives into their hands getting their tillage e eequipment to try to break up the ground to
stop the fire. i commend the first responders with containing this fire and preventing any loss of life while also preventing other fire hot spots from baking -- breaking out into blazes. i remember talking to a county commissioner in logan county and he described a situation where they tried to create a fire break with road graders and farms were trying to disk up the ground to stop the fire from moving. i remember the county commissioner telling me at a cern time of the day, he had to make a phone call of the he called the commissioner from the neighboring county, the fire was moving that way. and he said, hey, i want you to know in phillips county, logan county is unable to stop the fire. i'm sorry. it is in your hands now. imagine that phone call to say that this horrible thing that is happening in your county is also spreading to the next county and you can't do anything about it, despite the incredible efforts that took place and the heroism and acts to try to stop it.
the fire departments from across colorado came to northeastern colorado, the part of the state, to stand alongside local firefighters to get this fire under control. dozens of agencies and departments responded. being from yuma county i know how fast-moving these fires can be. i have fought prairie fires as well in northeastern colorado and know how fast they move and they indiscriminate their in their destruction. i also know the challenges people face in phillips and logan counties as they try to recover into the spring. but i can confidently say that the community is recovering. according to local agronomist dave gibson, 85% of the cropland was planted within six days of the fire with oats to prevent erosion with neighbors volunteering to help and donate. it was an amazing effort, dave gibson said.
my office has been in communication with those impacted to ensure we are do everything possible to sis with this process. two-thirds of colorado's agricultural production comes from the south platte river valley, those areas considered in northeastern colorado. i've spoken on the senate floor about the difficult times that these farmers are facing outside of the context of natural disasters. when times with already tough, though, seeing your land and cattle operation burned up in a prairie fire makes things worse. it's during these times in agriculture whether it is the impact of fire or low commodity prices that we're reminded for the need of effective leadership. i was pleased when the chamber came together to confirm sonny purdue as our secretary of agriculture. senators on both sides of the aisle recognize that supporting our nation's farmers and ranchers is not a partisan issue. it is my hope that we can support secretary perdue to
confirm the rest he have -- the rest of his team. whenever it is an f.s.a. issue or a situation relating to trained how we're going to address low commodity price, the secretary of agriculture needs a team around him. congress must work with secretary perdue to address this crisis in agriculture and in colorado we've seen net farm income drop 80% since the record highs of 2011. if you look at this headline. this was in "the wall street journal" some weeksing a. this headline that said the next american farm bust is upon us. if you look a the state of colorado alone, a drop of 80% in farm income from the record highs of 2011. and i believe this congress needs to act with a four-pronged approach. first we need a long-term farm policy in place. with the farm bill expiring in september of 2018, congress must
begin negotiations about how we are going to move forward in a responsible fashion. i commend the senate and house agriculture committees for holding hearings on the next farm bill, and i look forward to holding our own round tables and listening sessions to learn about and listen about how we can make a difference. federal policy certainty with a long-term farm policy is essential for farmers and ranchers. the second thing we must do is to provide regulatory relief. now, we have already repealed about $85 billion worth of regulations over the last three months. that's an incredible feat to relieve the american economy from the harm and pressure of $85 billion worth of regulatory overreach. by relieving the american business community of that $85 billion worth of regulation regd relieving the american family of that pressure as well, it also means we've been able to reduce paperwork by 54 million hours.
imagine that. $85 billion worth of regulatory redukeses means there's 54 million hours of paperwork that doesn't have to be done. regulatory relief when this comes to agriculture to help address this next american farm crisis, some of those regulatory relieves, the $85 billion includes things like repealing of the bureau of land management 2.0 rule or finally getting the waters of the united states regulation out of the way. that's the kind of regulatory relief we have to continue to pursue. to those who may not know what waters of the united states did, under the e.p.a.'s own study, two-thirds of colorado waterways are described as intermittent flow. that means they don't have water in them year-round. yet according to the government
they would be considered navigable waterways. now, i don't know how you get anything to float down a dry river, but apparently the e.p.a. can. $85 billion worth of regulatory relief includes stopping the waters of the united states. and we've got to continue to peel back the harmful regulations, the burdensome regulations on american agriculture. the third thing we have to address is access to finance. finance is critical to any farmer. in fact, there is an old joke, an old saying that if you go out to a farmer, they may know this already, how do you make a small fortune in agriculture? you start with a large one. and you know what? i think it's time that we fixed that. the wouldn't it be nice if people weren't just reliant on the bank but they could actually produce enough money to help them into the future, to help them thrive, to prosper, to grow, to bring in new generati generations of farmers? during challenging times, we do need to have access to financing. whether it is through that community bank, that bank on main street, whether it's a
credit union or the farm credit system, farmers, ranchers, those in agriculture need access to financing to get through this difficult time. that production loan, that operating loan, how they are going to make it from see ton to season, from harvest to harvest, from planting to planting to make sure they have the ability to stay on the farm. right now we have a system that i'm worried about, a financial regulatory system in place that perhaps a farmer walks into a bank one day, a bank that they have been doing business with for 100 years -- they've never missed a payment -- but all of a sudden based on some washington, d.c., form larry, they can no -- formulary, they can no longer get the loan that they need, even though that bank knows that they'll be able to make that payment. what we've create sad system and financial regulations that's going to make it impossible for some of those farmers to work out the crisis that's upon them. and so i've sent a letter two weeksing a to the consumer
financial protection bureau requesting a review of all regulations, giving rural access to finance. the fourth thing we have to get right, we have to get right trade opportunities for american agriculture. with corn and wheat prices near ten-year lows, the obvious solution is to open up more international markets for agriculture. to continue to look for more opportunities to export american agricultural products overseas. the price in commodities -- i was born in 1974. the price of commodities, a bushel of corn is about the same price today as it was back then in 1974. trade opportunities, opening them up, opening up new markets, give us that value-ed ad opportunity to help -- value value-added opportunity to help get more for that bushel of corn. some of the greatest opportunities lie in asia, 50% of the global population, 50% of the g.d.p. in the future. those are markets that we have to open up. those are markets that already have access to u.s. markets. but if we want to sell there,
sometimes we're hit with a tariff. that's not fair. we have to make sure we are reducing the tariffs that we face when we go into their markets because they seem to have unfettered access to ours many of the type of -- much of the time. a long-term farm policy, regulatory relief, being a is tows financing, trade opportunities that work for the american farmer and ranch rancher. those recent fao irrelevance in northeast colorado as well as fires in past years and a access across the west are another reminder of the need to address wildfire barring. it is a process where the department of agriculture, the forest service spends money that it has budgeted for the fires, it runs out of the money because it didn't budget enough to fight the fires, then it turns around and starts cannibalizing another areas of spend, areas of spending that could have been used to reduce the next forest fire. we have to stop the practice of fire borrowing. and we have to work with secretary perdue in his role as
federal of the united states forest service within the department of agriculture to improve forest and land management to prevent these uncontrollable fires that we've seen. supporting those impacted by fires, whether it is in the forest or on the prairie, is something that we should all be able to get behind. in logan and fingerprint lips counties, neighbors banded together. they worked to recover and rebuild from the devastation shown on these images. it has happened for generations across this country. when there is a crisis, when there is a tragedy, neighbors help their neighbors. you can see it in these pictures. but we can also help our neighbors from washington, d.c., toss across our country's vast farmland by doing what's right and addressing these challenges, just like logan county and phillips county banded together. we should band together with american agriculture. it is my hope that congress can learn from the leses sons taught in the aftermath of these situations, come together, support our rural communities and agriculture and make sure we